Watch an episode of The Crown, and you'll know: A queen is a paradox. They're human, but their blood raises them above the rest of us mortals and into the realm of royalty. They have free will, but they're bound by duty. They possess lavish wealth, but people are watching how they spend it. Broadly speaking, people are watching how they do everything.
Given these unusual circumstances, it's no surprise that queens — and their duty-bound, high-profile statuses — make for fascinating movie subjects. These are working women who, because of their limited freedoms, fundamentally can't have it all. They frequently have to compromise between personal desire and the greater good. They weigh. They choose.
Queens might not have boundless freedom, but they do have power. In worlds both long-ago and contemporary, real and fictional, queens are women born into power when power is more commonly held by men. Two movies out this fall, The Favourite and Mary Queen of Scots, examine how queens grasp and maintain that power amid the many people vying for a chunk themselves. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in The Favourite finds herself in the middle of a strange, sex-fueled triangle in which the two other prongs — Abigail (Emma Stone) and Sarah (Rachel Weisz) — compete for emotional proximity to the queen. Save for each other, Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie) and Mary Queen of Scots (Saoirse Ronan) are peerless. It's a shame they're too busy being locked in a geopolitical struggle to become allies.
Each of these queens has a fundamentally difficult task: Navigating a treacherous world populated by people with ulterior motives, all while conforming to gender expectations and maintaining a "queenly" disposition — not to mention the other responsibility of producing heirs. These movie queens speak to how a certain subset of remarkable women handle their fate.